WhatsApp begins identifying, sharing ‘legal’ names of users who enable payments in India

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WhatsApp has started identifying the “legal” names of users who have enabled the Unified Payments Interface (UPI)-based payment feature on its app. These names, which are linked to users’ bank accounts and may be different from profile names, will also be shown to those who receive payments through WhatsApp. The Meta-owned instant messaging app said the new move is a result of the UPI guidelines set by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), aimed at preventing frauds.

To notify users about the update, WhatsApp has started rolling out a notification in its app that contains a link to an FAQ page detailing the legal name requirement.

“When you use payments on WhatsApp, other UPI users will be able to see your legal name. This is the same name on your bank account,” the FAQ page reads.

Following the guidelines issued by NPCI, the notification has been started for users on both Android and iOS from the end of March. It appears in the Help section of WhatsApp as a new shortcut named About UPI Payment and Legal Name Which carries a link to the FAQ page.

WhatsApp is providing a link to its FAQ page on the legal name requirement in the Help section

“The name associated with your bank account is the name that will be shared,” the FAQ page says.

Generally, WhatsApp users have the option to choose any name up to 25 characters long that they want to use on the app. They can also include emoji in their profile name to make it look unique. However, the new requirement has made it mandatory for the app to identify and share the real names of its users as per their bank accounts when they signed up for the payment facility.

“To prevent fraud, the UPI guidelines stipulate that the recipient’s name is displayed to the sender during a transaction,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement to Gadgets 360. “WhatsApp UPI PIN displays the recipient’s name on the screen. This is a compliance requirement and practice of all UPI apps.”

Although other UPI-based payment apps require accurate user details including their legal name at the time of signup, the same requirement by WhatsApp is viewed with a different view by some privacy advocates.

“Traditional payment apps came as pure payment products, where it was implied that bank accounts and legal names would be shared,” said Srikanth Lakshmanan, coordinator of consumer awareness collective Cashless Consumer. “But WhatsApp is plugging payments into a social media app – which never guaranteed legal names.”

Prateek Waghre, policy director of Digital Rights Advocacy Group-based Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), concurred with Lakshmanan and said that users need to be cautious about the way they use UPI payments and chat on the same.

“Just because you pay with WhatsApp doesn’t mean you want to give someone your full legal name. I think WhatsApp needs to think of a way to protect users’ privacy in this matter.” ” Waghre said.

Lakshmanan also raised a hypothetical concern – to which Waghre also voiced his concern – that Meta may eventually be able to link users’ Facebook, Instagram and Messenger profiles with their legal names available on WhatsApp. However, a WhatsApp spokesperson categorically denied Meta’s access to the users’ legal names.

“Meta is not accessible when WhatsApp displays this [legal] Name,” said the spokesperson.

Kazim Rizvi, founding director of public-policy think-tank The Dialogue, said the requirement of legal names by WhatsApp was nothing but the regular compliance required by all payment apps.

“As a messaging platform, WhatsApp offers its users the freedom to use the name of their choice,” he said.

For quite some time now, WhatsApp has been working hard to increase the adoption of its payments feature in the country. The app received approval from NPCI last month to expand its facility to 100 million users. It has also recently started offering cashback rewards to people who pay through WhatsApp.

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